Your Guide to Media Activation: Everything You Need to Know

By Jenna Naylon

Your Guide to Media Activation: Everything You Need to Know

The digital space has changed the way businesses grow and gain exposure. Media-related roles are quickly becoming exceptionally critical among organizations that need help executing their media buying and marketing strategies.

In this guide, we’ll look at what media activation is and how it differs from media buying. Brand activation, in-house (versus outsourced work), and the best practices for getting solid vendor contracts, are all valuable parts of the process. Understanding these practices will allow for a better understanding of what media activation is and its role in the digital marketing funnel.


What Is Media Activation?

Media activation refers specifically to the preparing and launching of various media campaigns, including social media ads and PPC campaigns. The people managing this part of the campaign may also be accountable for optimization and reporting on their efforts, but most of today’s marketing efforts have reporting and optimization features to assist with this step in the process. Although some companies use the terms media buying and media activation interchangeably (or with little discernment of their differences), media activation is its own part of the marketing process.

Some consider media activation to be any part of the process that engages directly with consumers through various marketing efforts.

As a result, a unique experience for the consumer is designed to build brand notoriety and ensure the results of the marketing campaigns are effective in their reach.

This process usually comes after the planning and buying stages, when all the plans and purchased media is put into place. Some companies will manage this in-house, but many choose to outsource marketing efforts to a company dedicated to delivering the best solutions with their expertise and team of specialists.

A media activation manager is responsible for the day-to-day execution of all marketing efforts and activities. Someone in this position offers strong knowledge of platforms and relationships to deliver and execute all media plans, optimize campaigns, and analyze results.


How Does This Differ from Media Buying?

Media buyers and planners are in similar roles, but they may not be responsible for the activation part of the strategy.

Some corporations have media buyers or planners that do it all, due to a lack of need for separate people to handle each step of the execution. Planners are less likely to handle the activation, but those who are media buyers may also be responsible for activating, or executing, the campaigns that they sell.

As digital media becomes a more active part of digital marketing campaigns, companies will likely continue to separate these roles so that they are clearly defined and are effectively executed within the various stages of the marketing process. That means the existing media planners and buyers that are doing it all will likely not be on their own for much longer. Companies are starting to see the need for dividing these responsibilities, which leads to the ever-critical decision: to hire a media activation person (or team) in-house or to outsource the work to a third party.

It is expected that not before long all companies have dedicated roles for planning, buying, and executing various marketing efforts.


Brand Activation vs. Media Activation

Brand activation is an umbrella topic that includes media activation—it is the attempt of a brand to create experiences and engagements that forge emotional connections and bonds between a target audience and a brand. Essentially, this is the larger methodology that uses six different marketing disciplines to define brands, bring them to life, and allow them to interact with consumers and target audiences in a whole new way.

These include:

  1. Commerce marketing
  2. Experiential marketing
  3. Content marketing
  4. Promotion marketing
  5. Relationship marketing
  6. Influencer marketing

All these aspects of marketing must seamlessly fit together to ensure a brand is able to reach its goals with brand activation and visibility in the digital space. Across these disciplines, there will be marketing efforts that need to be launched or activated, which is where the role of a media activation specialist can provide success.


Types of Media Activations

As mentioned, there are several types of media that are utilized for marketing campaigns. The digital space has created so many different avenues to explore for advertising, including paid and “free” efforts.

For example, SEO are considered free because unless you pay someone to implement them, they are not going to detract from your marketing budget. As part of a broad, well-planned media strategy, common activations include:

  • PPC campaigns
  • Video advertising
  • Social media marketing
  • Display advertising
  • eCommerce campaigns
  • Audio adverts


Third-party companies will often utilize the data they’ve collected about audience(s) and target marketing goals to help determine the best plan of action for each of these efforts. The best companies are on pace with AI and machine learning, constantly developing and implementing new media activation methods in an increasingly complex marketing ecosystem. Having access to these tools is what sets outsourced teams apart.


Outsourcing vs. In-House

As with most media operations and marketing efforts, businesses will have the choice to handle media activation in-house or outsource to a third party. Business owners and leaders don’t have time and energy to invest on this themselves, so they need to designate someone to provide the most success within this crucial marketing role. In this case, they have the option of hiring someone or a team to do the work in-house or outsourcing the task and its related duties.

For those who already have the talent or have people in similar roles, it might make sense to keep the work in-house. The insourced team will already be familiar with business processes, as well as the mission, vision, and goals of the company that play a part in marketing efforts. In-house work allows managers to keep tabs on the process and make changes in real-time, as well.

Of course, there is always a case for outsourced solutions. SMBs and companies that don’t have the necessary expertise on board already might see going through a third party agency as the best choice as they will be able to gain access to a team of experts without having to conduct the hiring process themselves.


Outsourced Media Activation

Outsourcing media activation is popular among those who don’t already have the resources in place to manage their own digital marketing efforts. Media execution strategies that are put in place will only be as good as the people who implement these strategies. The average company may not have room for yet another role—when you consider hiring someone for media activation, you’ll be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on training, development, salary, and benefits that could potentially be used within the already existing marketing budget.  

Outsourcing can save a fortune on hiring, onboarding, and employee development costs. It also allows access to a team of experts that has been working with media activation campaigns for as long as digital marketing has been around. Even when it was just known as marketing execution, many third-party vendors offered their services to those in need.

For companies that have sensitive materials, strict regulatory guidelines, or other control issues, working with a third-party may not be the best choice due to the loss of control over assets. When an agency is managing these issues effectively, controlling marketing efforts isn’t given a second thought however, for industries where control is necessary, outsourcing for media activation may not be the ideal choice.

In general, outsourcing offers benefits like:

  • Dedicated expertise
  • Money savings
  • Access to multiple services/solutions
  • Streamlined efforts
  • Less work for business leaders and in-house marketing team members

There are some companies who, despite these benefits, will still decide that they need to take their media activation efforts in-house. From there, expect to negotiate vendor contracts and measure the performance of your activation efforts.


What You Need for In-House Activation

Teams that choose to handle their own media activation will need to make sure that they have a dedicated person (or department) to handle the job. This is a new opportunity to define roles and give people specific responsibilities in relation to your digital marketing efforts.

For in-house efforts to succeed, a budget is necessary to hire or re-allocate employee resources.

For example, if there is someone who’s currently handling all the media planning and buying, a business may want to hire a partner that can take care of the execution of the various campaigns.

This will also require companies to invest in various digital marketing software platforms and tools. It is very difficult to execute a marketing campaign without the right access to mediums where ads are being launched. Strong metrics and reporting features, too, are necessary to keep track of programmatic and other media efforts.

Some companies hire someone to manage video marketing and another to manage content, and so forth. That can lead to many people creating an abundance of strategies that need to be implemented and activated. Execution may be a part of the list of job duties for some existing employees, but in most cases, companies are looking to add a dedicated role that is entirely focused on the activation of media campaigns and the ensuing performance of those efforts.

For those who want to hire in-house, it will be important to make sure that the following elements are available:

  • Budget for hiring new employees, including salary and benefits
  • A plan and a place for the role in the greater marketing team
  • Access to skilled media professionals who know how to handle activation campaigns
  • The tools to execute and monitor all media marketing efforts

In most cases, small companies just getting started in the digital media space will usually begin with outsourcing until they decide a dedicated in-house team would better suit to their needs.

If you’re going to outsource any of your business, here’s how to get the best deal when you are negotiating with vendors and service providers.


Negotiating with Vendors: Get the Best Deal from the Best Companies

Third-party vendors and service providers all have standard rates and contract terms. However, “standard” doesn’t mean set in stone. Contracts always have room for negotiation and the best companies won’t ever sign on the dotted line until they’ve worked the most efficient and beneficial deal for them. Fortunately, vendors are always expecting a negotiation, so they won’t be caught off guard. Unfortunately, that also means that preparation is essential if you want to get the best outcome.

Negotiating with vendors can be done with four simple steps:

Step 1.) Research the vendor, their industry and expertise, what their business has been like lately, their successes, etc.

Before negotiating with a potential partner, it is necessary to know them inside and out. That way, you have the leverage of knowledge on your side, and know exactly what you want to ask for, as well as what is reasonable.

Step 2.) Be flexible and willing to compromise in some respects.

Don’t fold right away, by any means, but if the time is taken to discuss contingencies and possible term changes, you might see that you can arrive at an arrangement that works better for everyone involved. Companies that struggle to find the best outsourced help are those that are far too rigid in their demands.

Step 3.) Be honest and transparent.

Too often, companies try to “hide” behind the marketing mask and forget that making personal connections are extremely important. Vendors want honesty and transparency just as much as consumers, and of course, it should be important to you, too. Building strong relationships is the key to success with vendor outsourcing, in marketing and all other business efforts.

Step 4.) Finally, be prepared to walk and find someone else.

It’s not likely that you’ll need to worry about this very often, but there are some rare cases where it just won’t work. If a vendor has been researched thoroughly, consulted with, and still aren’t meeting the needs of your company, it might just be that there’s another better option out there.

Companies are always more than willing to haggle with salary negotiations when they’re hiring, but they don’t often think about trying to strike a deal with outsourced work. Too often, they see a price listed or get a quote and settle for that rate, even if it’s not the most optimal. It never hurts to begin negotiations and suggest a more agreeable contract. Using negotiation skills to make the outsourced relationship work in your favor here, is critical.

When done correctly, it is possible to name your price on various outsourced projects and tasks, as well as providing an opportunity to build a foundation for stronger relationships that will help business in the future.


Measuring Performance

The key to success with media activation, as with many efforts in business, is to monitor and measure performance to ensure that campaigns are as effective as they can be.

Using data-driven insights, media activation specialists will dig into buying attributes, behavioral characteristics, and other elements of your target audience to create a media plan that delivers the right messages on the correct platforms, at the most optimal time.

This is not an effort where you can “set it and forget it.” It is necessary for media activation efforts to be constantly measured and tested to ensure that tactics are effective and that results are achieved in line with the goals of the organization and/or the media activation strategy. Metrics and analytics will allow companies and media activation specialists the chance to compare different strategies and find the most ideal way to reach audiences so that an entire marketing strategy is optimized from start to finish.

Several different metrics will need to be monitored with any digital marketing strategy. Some digital marketing platforms that are used by companies today come with a robust suite of analytics and metrics tools to ensure that monitoring can be built into any campaign or business effort.

How, though, can you manage those metrics and see whether they’re hitting the mark?

Most of the performance metrics that you need will be found in two places: ad servers and vendor reporting. You’ll need to look at specific analytics like click-through rates, conversions, CPC and CPA (cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition), return on ad spend (ROAS), etc. Organizations that don’t have the tools or team to monitor performance will want to turn, again, to a third-party provider that can deliver thorough metrics and analytics along with a dedicated media activation strategy.

What to Measure

Before diving into the metrics of media activation and other digital marketing efforts, it is important to understand what is being measured. Each company will have its own goals, however, there are some metrics that are universally monitored by media activation specialists. With a third-party provider on a team, there is less for the company itself to worry about. However, it’s still important to know what they’re looking at to understand what is of the utmost importance.

Some of the most important metrics concerning media activation and digital marketing include:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): How many people click the ad to follow through to a different page or source.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): How much it costs for every click on a media campaign.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This is how much a company sees in revenues from ad campaigns, minus the money spent to run the ads.
  • Views: Obviously, getting a high number of views from the right target audiences is always important.
  • Conversion Rate: How many people actually convert from the ad?
  • Goal Completion Rates: How many goals are completed in a certain period, or how long it takes, on average, to accomplish marketing goals?
  • Traffic sources: It’s always helpful to know where your audience is coming from.
  • Returning visitors: Companies that can home in on this metric can take advantage of retargeting campaigns more effectively.

When measuring these different aspects of your digital marketing strategy there are a few different tools out there to help, including ad servers and vendor reporting.

Ad Servers

Ad servers come in all shapes and sizes. Companies that are going to utilize digital advertising efforts will need to choose an ad server that will manage their online campaigns and help deliver ads and measure the results of the campaigns. Companies, agencies, and publishers of all kinds use these new tools to manage and monitor their ad campaigns.

These have become a universal way of managing ads, offering a centralized location where creatives can be uploaded, delivery parameters can be defined, and performance can be tracked to deliver advanced insights and metrics that may not have been discoverable before. Ad servers allow you to get information in real-time and identify KPIs (key performance indicators) across various channels, devices, and formats.

The difference between traditional ad reporting and these modern ad servers is the real-time capability to make decisions on which ads to show and where. There are numerous benefits to using these modern tools, including:

  • A centralized place to execute, measure, and monitor ad campaigns and creative efforts in the digital space. This will help streamline work for everyone, streamline advertising and digital marketing efforts, and allow for a company to save a lot of time and money for organizations that embrace it accordingly.
  • The elimination of information silos, thanks to real-time data analysis and metrics that provide a comprehensive look at media activation and can even automate activation with target partners or ads. The use of this information can change ad strategies in several different ways, including a better understanding of audiences and what they want to see.
  • Cross-platform metrics and monitoring are benefits that come with the integration of an ad server. These monitoring tools are built with the latest in technology and AI, in turn provides a guarantee that the metrics that are accessed are accurate and most efficient without human error.
  • Ultimately, this allows organizations to own their data regarding media activation and other digital marketing efforts. It also provides the space and capability for real-time management creating less room for wasted marketing dollars on campaigns or executions that aren’t effective.

Ad servers make it easy to upload text, images, video, audio, display ads, and other content. In addition to easy uploads, ad servers provide serving strategy that allows companies to set triggers based on time, location, consumer behavior, device, and more. Other tools include campaign scheduling, ad tracking, and even impression monitoring. With this technology, it is possible to create custom reports from the analytics offered and engage in retargeting efforts based on information gathered from ad servers.


Vendor Reporting

The other part of measurement with media activation comes from third-party vendors. Companies that choose to work with an outsourced media activation team or multiple vendors should create and maintain a reporting structure and strategy that delivers everything that the organization needs. Disconnected reporting will to take up significant time and resources, and confusion for the entire team and across vendor relationships.

What organizations can do is include vendor reporting parameters and details in their vendor contracts. This will allow for concise vendor reporting and how they should be delivered, including what they should contain, what metrics are most important, and what format the reports need to be in. If a vendor has its own process in place for reporting and performance measurement, a detailed discussion is imperative to ensure everyone is on the same page in regards to reporting.  

Vendor reporting is managed across the business with all vendors having their own reporting tools and options for organizations that they work with. From this process, organizations can gain more than their reporting efforts because vendors have been using the same tools and practices for years. It is important to take advantage of the tools and resources available when you partner with vendors. They may be able to provide more insight than ever expected.


The Future Is Digital, and the Future Is Now

As more companies embrace digital marketing, the role of the media activation specialist will continue to develop and become a more dedicated role within organizations of all sizes. For the organizations that outsource media activation, these third parties offer a selection of vendors who are skilled in all areas of digital marketing and media. Therefore, they’ll know how to help execute the best campaigns and get the best results with your media marketing.


How to Work with MatrixPoint

MatrixPoint’s media activation consultants will ensure that your company makes the right decisions when it comes to determining the best strategies for digital media ads for your business to be successful and maximize marketing budgets.

Our experts will design a customized strategy for your specific needs, allowing you to immediately adopt industry best practices to ensure your marketing campaigns are effective and cost-effective.

Not only can we research, design, and deploy these executions on your behalf, but we can also train your team to utilize and maintain it, allowing you to build in-house expertise in this complex, but critical component of marketing and business executions and strategy.

Ready to schedule a consultation with MatrixPoint’s marketing experts? Contact us now to learn more about how we can help.

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